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It's a slippery slope as soap manufacturers slash bar size

The size of an Imperial Leather bar of soap is set to shrink as its manufacturer opts to change the pack size rather than hike the price, it was revealed today.

PZ Cussons is to change the size of the bar to 100g from 125g in coming months as it battles a steep rise in cost prices, such as palm oil.

Other household products such as chocolate bars are reported to have shrunk in size in recent months, offering worse value for money for consumers.

Finance director Brandon Leigh said yesterday: "Consumers only have a certain amount of money in their pockets and are paying more for fuel and other items, so I'm sure they would rather this than the price going up.

"The price point has become more important than the size of the product.

"A lot of food manufacturers have been doing the same thing, in response to particularly high commodity prices.

"People will always play with pack sizes."

Cussons is facing higher cost prices at a time when cash-strapped consumers are resistant to price hikes and the market for toiletries is dominated by special offers.

Cussons, which has no plans to shrink any of its other products, said it has put prices up by an average of 7% over the past year in response to higher costs.

But it has not yet fully pushed through all of the rising costs of its raw materials, and the company intends to increase prices by a further 2% this year if possible.

The Manchester-based firm said it expects its profits to have risen by about 7% to £108m in the year to May 31, in line with City expectations.

Although the mainstream market was resistant to price hikes, it said consumers continued to treat themselves, with premium products, such as its The Sanctuary spa treatments and St Tropez tanning treatments showing a high level of sales.

A raft of new products, including a Carex handwash, which claims to be highly effective at killing bacteria, and a fragranced Imperial Leather shower gel for sensitive skin, have helped the company to increase its profit margins.

The company said it is also cutting its costs to preserve its margins.

Shares were up 1% following today's announcement.